This week, we get some perspective from Jerry. Let’s see what we can learn from his experience in the northeast, Indonesia and everywhere in-between.
Once you exited the New England fisheries, which fisheries did you examine for your next phase of work and why did you choose Indonesia?
Prior to completely exiting, we had been in the importing business for about six years. It ended up being a transition over several years, moving from importing and some processing to only importing. We looked to Asian fisheries, especially Indonesia, because of the data pointing to Indonesia being such a productive source. After importing from several different countries in Asia, we realized the majority of the product was actually coming from Indonesia.
Simultaneously, we had identified sustainability as a real shift and not just trend in the industry. Indonesia didn’t necessarily provide any unique opportunities around sustainability. It was and probably is one of the most difficult fishery environments to work in from the perspective of government and traceability and sustainability efforts to date. Despite the challenges, we continue to make progress.
What key learnings have you taken from your time working in the Gulf of Maine?
First and foremost: understanding the dynamics of a collapsing fishery. We really began to understand what the tell-tale signs are, such as reduced landings, smaller fish, more diverse catch profiles, upgrades in technology to make harvesting more efficient. All of those indicators are very helpful in examining different fisheries around the world.
If we didn’t have this understanding in collapsing fisheries, we would probably have made an investment in the highly mechanized fishing vessels. One of the most effective moves in management is simplifying technology. Small boat fleet fisheries have stayed productive because production hasn’t been over-optimized.
What impacts has the global shift to sustainability had on the seafood industry?
Over the last five years, there have been no sweeping initiatives that have really moved the needle. There’s been a significant investment in understanding what can impact fisheries and what the troubled fisheries are, but what’s missing is not going to be a science led move. It’s going to be an industry led effort driven by external capital.
There’s been a shift in capital markets, recognizing the importance of fisheries. It’s still in its infancy because of the inherent risk in fisheries investment. Once the capital catches up with the development, that’s where the real change will come from. Global capital markets prioritize the long term horizon investment over the short term return. Impact investing has proven to be an effective avenue for our operation because it’s very patient capital. The whole world of impact investing is just getting on its feet and the much needed patient capital is now finding its way into fisheries.
Who is Michael Arbuckle and how will he be contributing to the NAI-BSI mission?
Michael Arbuckle is the author of the integrated fisheries management model. Prior to joining, he was a Senior Fisheries Specialist at the World Bank and worked in New Zealand fisheries. While in New Zealand, he was involved in the privatization of fisheries, seen as one of the most successful by many. It created avenues for traditional financing in infrastructure and, important to note, accounted for the native Maori fishing rights through quota allocation.
As a member of the team, Arbuckle will be focused on organizing our supply base by developing and implementing our incentive programs to engage local fishers. He has the opportunity to test his integrated fisheries management model in the market instead of solely through foundation supported projects.
What role do you see Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) playing into the longer term sustainability goals at NAI-BSI?
It’s important to remember FIPs are a means to an end; the end game being sustainability. Be it some kind of change in the fishery, some kind of harvesting controls based on sound scientific information, the goal is sustainability. FIPs in countries with stable rule of law will be able to complete the process of gathering data on existing fisheries, creating a body of knowledge that supports stock assessments and some kind of harvesting controls. That’s not the case in emerging countries because there’s no policy to support it.
A successful FIP is described as “making change on the water.” If we’re not going to make change through policy support, then FIPs are going to have to take on a new and different role. One of those new and different roles we’ve identified in artisanal fisheries is traceability. If a traceability pilot is part of a FIP, we’ll achieve change on the water. It will change the way different markets understand FIPs.
Why should the seafood world know who Indonesian Fisheries Minister Ibu Susi is?
Ibu Susi is a very unique Fisheries Minister at a very unique time. She comes from a fishing background, she’s a successful business woman and she’s completely irreverent when it comes to the status quo. What she does care about is fisheries. So she has made her mark by destroying IUU vessels, 140 to date, and taking on huge players like China. She will remain an incredibly important change agent for Indonesian fisheries.
Where do you see Indonesian fisheries five years from now?
As more attention is given to questions around fisheries management from projects like Global Fishing Watch, there will be continued positive momentum. Furthermore, large food retailers are increasingly focused on South East Asia. We believe the long term fishery policy implications from global brands’ presence in Indonesia will have positive effects on the supply chain. It’s an auspicious moment in time right now.